The Real Story On The MacGregor 65

[We just got a great comment by Lawrence Trimingham from Bermuda, on our post on a late season crossing in a MacGregor 65, that we thought was so interesting that we are putting it up as a post. Lawrence has literally lived with the boat “man and boy” since his father bought Bermudian Escape 20 plus (?) years ago. He not only addresses the boat’s suitability for the crossing planned by the original questioner, he has also provided a really good overview of this very interesting cruising boat.]

I own a MacGregor 65 and have lived and sailed on her extensively in the eastern Caribbean and have done several passages between the US and Bermuda.

I also crewed on a MacGregor 65 during a storm in the Gulf Stream, with recorded winds of 60kts. No damage occurred. During the storm, the crew took the opportunity to see which angle of sail suited the vessel and crew the best and found that at times it included running off with bare poles. The MacGregor is directionally very stable at speed and does not ‘tow’ a quarter wave like many older heavy displacement sailboats.

Early reefing and minimal sail are the key to comfortably sailing the Mac 65 in a strong wind. As long as this rule is followed, the boat is very steady due to the long waterline and easily driven hull design. It is easy to handle and sea-kindly on all points of sail.

Some other information about the MacGregor 65

The plusses:

  • Due to the long waterline and lack of overhang, the tendency to pitch either underway or at anchor is very low.
  • The sailplan is small enough for me to handle on my own.
  • Motoring is both fast and fuel efficient.
  • One can steer from both inside and out.
  • One hears at times that the MacGregor 65 is flimsily built, (usually from folks who have not even been on one!). Maybe this is because they were designed by Roger MacGregor of the 26ft trailerboat fame. However, if you ask any Mac 65 owner, you will find them generally a very happy lot, including when it comes to boat strength and integrity, especially for the production model with the pilot house (those built after 1987). The structural bulkheads are all solid glass and in certain areas more than 1.5″ inches thick. I know as I have had to drill through several. The hull is also reinforced in the bulkhead areas.

On the minus side:

  • The original 12volt wiring installation was poor.
  • The original lifeline stanchions were too short.
  • The finish trim and furnishings inside the boat are basic when compared with most boats even 20 ft shorter.
  • I would replace the opening ports.
  • While these boats can be found in northern latitudes I am not sure how warm they would be, since there is no built-in insulation. Just a solid fibreglass hull and an interior liner.

As great as these boats are, boats like John and Phyllis’ tough and heavy Morgan’s Cloud are more suited to being hurled about for days in icy northern storm force winds with the odd iceberg floating about!

Would I cross the Atlantic between August and November?  No, not even in a boat like Morgan’s Cloud, because of the risk of very nasty extra-tropical storms between the northern East Coast and Europe.

I opt for comfort, and would come through Bermuda and the Azores in May/June – crossing to Bermuda from the Chesapeake to minimize exposure to Gulf Stream storms.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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